The greatness of Egypt and Babylon are indisputable, and their unquenchable cravings for control of the world around them are in no doubt. Their love for supremacy was unmatched during the times of prophets Jeremiah and Daniel.
The fashionable ingenious new king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar the Second, went out and crushed the Egyptians at Carchemish. He marched on to Judah, during Jehoiakim’s reign (as had been prophesied by Jeremiah), and took thousands of Hebrews back to Babylon (including Daniel, who became one of the most prominent prophets). Nebuchadnezzar made two more onslaughts when he heard of revolt in Judah. Each time he took prisoners (including Ezekiel the prophet). Only a remnant of the most ineffective, poorest, and least aggressive Jews remained. Then, King Nebuchadnezzar set up a cat’s-paw king (Zedekiah) of David’s pedigree to sit on the throne of Judah and made him vow an oath of loyalty (2 Chr 36:10-12).
Zedekiah was as faithless as you and me, and as the rest of the unpropitious kings of Judah. He thereupon rebelled and allied with other foes of Nebuchadnezzar.
When Nebuchadnezzar heard of the treachery, he came back for the last time (586 B.C.) to degrade Jerusalem to rubble. The Temple went up in flames. Zedekiah was forced to behold the butchery of his sons. His eyes were then gorged out and he was transferred to Babylon. The Kingdom had run its full course and the chickens had come home to roost. In earnest, the times of the gentiles had been ushered in.
Herod the Great (the Grubby) built the Jerusalem Temple for the second time during Roman reign.
Historians tell us that Herod’s Temple was made of white marble and overlaid with gold plates. According to Josephus, “it reflected so fierce a blaze of fire that those who tried to look at it had to turn away as if they had looked straight at the sun. To approaching strangers it appeared in the distance like a mountain covered with snow.” The Sages concurred: “He who has not seen the Temple of Herod has never seen a beautiful building” (Babylonian Talmud, Baba Batra).
It is documented that King Herod hired 10,000 men to work and trained 1,000 priests as masons so they could work on the holiest sections of the temple.
The building project began in 19 B.C. and was completed in 10 years, but the work of decoration was not entirely finished until A.D. 64. This is six years short of the bloody A.D. 70 when the Romans torched and demolished the temple. The temple has never been rebuilt.
Can you imagine this imposing structure that had taken quite a number of years to build (John 2.20) was destroyed by the Romans?
Throughout its history, Israel’s temple had a lot of trash. Antiochus IV Epiphanes set up an idol to Zeus in the temple (Daniel 9:27). A number of the Israelite kings placed idols in the temple themselves (2 Chronicles 33:15), and money changers had turned it into a sanctum of robbers during Jesus’ time (Matthew 21:13).
Whenever garbage entered the temple of God, someone strived to dispose of it. The Jews discarded the statue of Zeus after The Maccabean uprising, Manasseh removed the idols, and Jesus flogged some guys and overturned tables.
Are we like Herod; expending all our energy to adorn the material temple at the expense of the spiritual temple? Are we diligent in doing what God has not told us to do?
We sometimes let junk into the temple of the LORD. We have allowed crooks and money changers to infiltrate the temple of the LORD, and we don’t give a hoot about it.
We are the temple of the Holy Spirit; as individuals and collectively as Christians.
Herod’s lofty temple might have been necessary, but obviously, not sufficient.